Rallying is a form of auto racing that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. The distinguishing feature in this type of motor sport is that it is not run on a track but roads or tracks going from one point to the next in stages. Participants leave at regular intervals.
“Rally” as a term is believed to date from the first Monte Carlo Rally in January 1911, however, rallying as a motor sport can be traced to the 1894 Paris-Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition which attracted considerable public interest and entries.
From here there were a period of city to city road races in France and other European cities with racers being timed individually so cars racing against the clock as opposed to against each other.
The first great race was the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race in 1895. A 1,178 km course running without any significant break. The average speed was 24 km/h and the trip took 48 hours and 48 minutes.
Eight years later the Paris-Madrid race in May 1903 took just under five and a quarter hours to Bordeaux at an average speed of 105 km per hour. The speed led to problems including numerous crashes, injuries and deaths. Consequently the French government banned this type of race for a number of years.
The Rally New Zealand is an annual rally race in New Zealand first held in Taupo in 1969 and subsequently staged in Canterbury, before moving back to the North Island in 1971.
The rally was included as a round of the World Championship in 1977. Auckland has hosted the majority of the events, however, from 2006 the event was with the super special stage located at the Mystery Creek Events Centre. Rally New Zealand is famous for its fast flowing gravel roads which carry the competitors through forests and alongside the impressive New Zealand coastline.
The 2007 Rally New Zealand is well remembered as it ended with the closest-ever finish in the history of the World Rally Championship. After over 350 competitive kilometres, only 0.3 seconds separated the winner Marcus Grönholm and second-placed Sébastien Loeb.
Rallying continues to be a popular sport in New Zealand.